The impact of physiological buffer solutions on zinc oxide nanostructures: zinc phosphate conversion


Zinc oxide (ZnO) nanostructures have been widely used in biosensor applications. However, little attention has been given to the interaction of ZnO structures with physiological buffer solutions. In the present work, it is shown that the use of buffers containing phosphate ions leads to the modification of the ZnO tetrapodal micro/nanostructures when immersed in such solutions for several hours, even at the physiological pH (7.4). ZnO samples designed to be used as transducers in biosensors were immersed in phosphate buffers for several durations at pH = 5.8 and pH = 7.4. Their detailed morphological, structural and optical characterization was carried out to demonstrate the effect of the ZnO interaction with the phosphate ions. The pH had an important role in the ZnO conversion into zinc phosphate, with lower pH promoting a more pronounced effect. After 72 h and at pH = 5.8, a significant amount of the ZnO structures were converted into crystalline zinc phosphate, while immersion during the same time at pH = 7.4 resulted predominantly in amorphous zinc phosphate particles mixed with the original ZnO tetrapods. Photoluminescence spectra show remarkable changes with prolonged immersion times, particularly when the luminescence of the sample was investigated at 14 K. These findings highlight the importance of a careful analysis of the sensing results when phosphate-based buffer solutions are in contact with the ZnO transducers, as the changes observed on the transduction signal during sensing experiments may also comprise a non-negligible contribution from a phosphate-induced transformation of ZnO, which can hamper an accurate assessment of the sensing behavior. (c) 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.



subject category

Chemistry; Materials Science


Rodrigues, J; Pereira, SO; Zanoni, J; Falcao, BP; Santos, NF; Moura, JP; Soares, MR; Rino, L; Costa, FM; Monteiro, T

our authors


This work was developed within the scope of the project i3N, UIDB/50025/2020 & UIDP/50025/2020, financed by national funds through the FCT/MEC, as well as financially supported by FEDER funds through the COMPETE 2020 Programme and National Funds through FCT -Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology under project PTDC/NAN-MAT/28755/2017 (POCI-01-0145-FEDER028755). S. O. Pereira and N. F. Santos thank i3N for the BPD grants (BPD/UI96/5808/2017 and BPD/UI96/5177/2020, respectively). Acknowledgements are due to J. P. Leitao (from i3N, Department of Physics, University of Aveiro) for the support in the FTIR measurements.

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